Extremism in Waltham Forest: a quick roundup of the recent lowpoints

It has been a busy few months on the extremism front in Waltham Forest, so here is a short roundup of the major stories that have been featured on this blog (links to the full versions are pasted beneath).

The material of course largely speaks for itself.

One point is important though.

LBWF Chief Executive Martin Esom claims some expertise in counter-extremism work, and chairs the London Prevent Board.

Perhaps he should spend more time looking at what is right under his nose.

January 2015

Investigative reporter Andrew Gilligan recounts the following:

‘Last November, in Leyton, east London, there was a public reading of the creed of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, founder of the ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism – seen by many as a wellspring of terror. The event took place at the Active Change Foundation, one of the Government’s key partners in Channel [a component, like Prevent, of the government’s anti-terrorism strategy]. Men and women were ordered to enter the building by separate doors. Hanif Qadir, founder of the Active Change Foundation, is not viewed as an extremist by other providers. “It’s just a business for him,” said one. But speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Qadir vigorously defended the Wahhabi event and the segregation. “Separate entrances for men and women is part of our religion. That just tells you how ignorant you are in understanding our religion,” he said, before putting down the phone’.

February 2015

During a late night Facebook exchange, a Labour councillor uses intemperate language, but claims it is because one of his colleagues has just posted what is ‘clearly an attempt to justify the murders of the Charlie hebdo [sic] cartoonists in Paris’.

Pointedly, the former – but not the latter – is subsequently suspended from the party.

However, after an inquiry, led from outside the borough, he is fully exonerated, being found to have ‘no case to answer’.

May 2015

Martin Esom tells a hearing at City Hall: ‘before Christmas I had a deputation of councillors that came to see me about Prevent and how uneasy they felt about the whole programme in the borough’.

One reputable source claims that this neutral sounding description hides a less palatable truth. The deputation is exclusively Muslim, and the ‘uneasiness’ is tinged with sectarianism, the objective of which is to persuade Mr. Esom that Prevent should be re-focused, principally at Shia sects, and Ahmadis.

December 2015

Shortly after the Paris murders, a Channel 4 documentary Isis: The British Women Supporters Unveiled reveals that for the past two years a room at the LBWF-owned Waltham Forest Community Hub (previously called the Asian Centre) has been hired for ‘ladies’ tea afternoons’ which are a cover for a weekly Isis supporters’ discussion group.

January 2016

Academic Machteld Zee’s carefully researched book Choosing Sharia? turns the spotlight on, amongst others, the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton, and concludes that the male judges’ ‘“principle focus”’ is ‘“making women dependent on their husbands and clerics”’.

April 2016 (1) 

It is revealed that an organisation promoting conspiracy theories, anti-semitism, and separation from ‘the West’ and its values has been regularly running events at Lea Bridge Rd. Mosque – a place of worship that has historic links with both several LBWF Labour councillors, and the Active Change Foundation (for which see above).

April 2016 (2)

The Evening Standard alleges that Cllr. Ahsan Khan and Cllr. Saima Mahmud, Madam Mayor, have participated in an award ceremony honouring a former imam, again connected to the Lea Bridge Rd. Mosque, who is on record as fulsomely praising Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of liberal Punjab governor and critic of religious intolerance, Salman Taseer.

To make matters worse, it then emerges that a film of the ceremony is being promoted by one Khalid Iqbal Malik, described as a ‘local Islamic social media activist’, who also turns out to be a Qadri fan, and has some extremely dubious material on his Facebook page.

LBWF mounts an inquiry, but predictably, all those named are quick to deny any ill judgment, explaining that they do not share extremist views, have been taken out of context etc.

Related Posts

LBWF and the anti-terrorist Prevent programme: is it wise to keep it in the closet?

Barnett v. Dhedi: councillors scrap

Barnett v. Dhedi: the denouement UPDATED

LBWF in Private Eye again, this time over ISIS and Prevent

LBWF’s Preventing Extremism Strategic Summary for 2015-16

LWBF, Prevent, and the Lea Bridge Rd. Mosque

Cllr. Ahsan Khan steps down amid talk of inadmissible intolerance UPDATED

The Cllr. Ahsan Khan affair: new revelations UPDATED